Monday, November 23, 2015
Beneath Another Sky
The most difficult part of the walk began the moment I turned on my computer. I mean, what is one to write about if nothing much happened? It was the kind of day where nothing really appealed to the eye; nothing inspired words; nothing brought the feet to a halt to take a photograph...
I debarked the train in Matto, my attention pulled immediately by the yellowing ginkgo trees of the old castle grounds which were attempting to bring some beauty to an otherwise drab day. This set the mood for the entire walk, the odd splash of color on a dark grey canvas.
Grey above, grey below. Little on the immediate landscape but cookie-cutter suburban sprawl, their squared irregularity broken only by the larger masses of industrial blight. I was thankful then for the odd shrine which seemed to pop up every twenty minutes or so. Above each was a single tree at the height of its tinctured spectacularity, the ground below littered with the leaves of those with less longevity. But even with these, the metaphor for a fading and near deceased beauty was a bit too close. Many of these shrines were tributes to Hachiman, god of war. No surprise really since remote farm communities like this were prime recruiting grounds for tough and hearty young men who went overseas to die in droves. Same as every country I suppose.
Where the suburbs broke the land opened up. The kites and crows were having a significant aerial battle above the dull colored stubble of newly harvested rice fields. There must have been hundreds of birds, swooping and dodging and swirling in impossible geometric shapes. It brought to mind an old dog fight of the First World War, and in an instant I remembered that the previous day had been Remembrance Day.
In the far distance, Hakusan had a fresh coat of snow, gradually moving toward the countenance that gives her her name. She orbited slowly around my left shoulder as I entered a busier road seemingly dedicated to delivering people to the usual chain stores in order to whisk their paychecks away toward Tokyo. I knew I'd be on this road for a while, and a quick peek at Google Maps said that it would be fifty-one minutes, to be exact. With a sigh I pulled up a one-hour long comedy set by Bill Hicks on my iPod, and commenced giggling as I went on my way.
I had a quick pee in the toilet of a seemingly empty police box, then surprised a lone officer when I stepped back out again. Crossing a long bridge, I saw a small amusement park nested against the berm of the river. On the berm's other side, and nearly lost amidst the high grasses near the water's edge was a single teeter-totter, the world's most forlorn consolation prize.
My fifty-one minutes having passed, the route began to zigzag again, as it had earlier on. I was very reliant on my GPS here, and I figured I was in a footrace with the life of its battery. There was very little else on the landscape to occupy me, until another river crossing brought me to the outskirts of Komatsu, the first place I saw that actually had even a touch of historical flavor. What had been the old post town's high road was surprisingly lined with temples, each with a small placard detailing its history. It all had a pleasant look, but one that was being lost in the fading light. This land may be known by the moniker of Rising Sun, but this time of year, the sun falls all too fast.
On the turntable: "Doob Doob O Rama"
On the nighttable: William Scott Wilson, "Afoot in Japan"